In a hugely interesting development last Friday (if water is what interests you) the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee published a report on the government’s Draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for Water Resources Infrastructure.
The Committee was clear that an NPS is needed to deliver resilient and robust provision of water in the future. It seeks a greater role for government to instil guidelines and actions to manage current water resources before new supply solutions such as reservoirs are explored by water companies.
The report made three major recommendations:
- The final NPS should require water companies to demonstrate they have a tangible and clear plan to preclude the need for new supply by an approach based on leakage reduction, demand management and catchment-based solutions
- Greater prominence given to biodiversity enhancement
- The Committee was disappointed the NPS will not form a fully integrated approach until PR24
So, what does any of this actually mean? Will the government become more involved in shaping water regulations?
In short, it probably won’t. In the shadows, Labour’s renationalisation plans loom, so greater government involvement might scare the privatised water companies into becoming more efficient with their water resources. That said, it is highly unlikely that a Conservative-led government would advocate more involvement in privatised public service policymaking.
For water companies, BECG advises open engagement with DEFRA, Ofwat, the EFRA Select Committee and MPs should remain a priority. It will be important to establish and maintain good relations with those involved in drafting the NPS.
The water industry’s response to recent climate challenges, PR19 and supply threats has been pretty good. But positive PR messaging can go further – why don’t customers and regulators know how reliable their water services are?
At BECG we can provide strategic counsel, guidance and support in helping utilities companies to deliver their messages around water resources resilience and efficiency. We offer services including corporate communications, crisis management and public affairs that could assist in this process.
PR19 represented an opportunity to build corporate reputations – and has proved challenging for many water companies so far. The NPS can be another chance at harnessing corporate reputations, and we can help.